Sunday, April 3, 2022

Why Are Women So Depressed?

If you or I had said it, heads would be exploding across the country. Feminists would be up in arms at the mere suggestion that biology has something to do with women’s depressive symptoms. 

And yet, here we have it, from the Wall Street Journal, quoting the most reputable scientific authorities, to the effect that women are far more likely to get depressed than men and are far more likely to take antidepressants.

When the time comes to trot out a cause, the scientists suggest that the problem lies with the hormonal changes that accompany menopause and that the solution lies in hormone replacement.

So, anatomy might not be destiny. You can change your sex by changing our mind. And yet, it seems that hormones are not for nothing in the equation-- especially when it comes to women.

Amazingly, we can now read an entire article where no one thinks to blame it on the patriarchy.

By the by, what happened to “the problem that has no name.” As you recall, that phrase, felicitously conceptualized, was trotted out by Betty Friedan in the early 1960s to explain why suburban housewives were suffering so much emotional distress. One thing I can assure you, without rereading her book is that Friedan did not blame it on hormones.

Anyway, here are the statistics, from the Wall Street Journal:

About one in five women ages 40 to 59 and nearly one in four women ages 60 and over used antidepressants in the last 30 days during 2015 to 2018, according to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Among women ages 18 to 39, the figure was about one in 10. Among men, 8.4% of those ages 40 to 59 and 12.8% of those 60 and older used antidepressants in the last 30 days, according to the NCHS data.

Clearly, there is something sexist about all this. Only, one fails to understand exactly what it is. The Journal adds that women generally are more depressed than men, and that it gets worse with menopause.

In general, women have higher rates of depression than men throughout much of their lives according to scientific research. In midlife, the risk is greatest during the years leading up to menopause and right after it. The dramatic fluctuations in hormones that cause the most-commonly known symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats can wreak havoc on mood, too.


Studies have found that women’s risk of having an episode of major depression is two to four times higher around menopause than at other times during their lives; it is even greater for women who have a had a previous episode of depression. Menopause is defined to have occurred one year after a woman’s last menstrual period. The median age of menopause in the U.S. is 51. 

Happily for all those concerned, no one seems to imagine that women undergoing menopause might feel less sexual and less attractive to potential suitors. But, the Journal recognizes, in passing, that other factors might factor in:

Doctors also note that midlife is often a time of marked stress for women—and stress can increase the risk of depression. Many women are juggling careers, raising children and caring for elderly parents. “You have a lot on your shoulders, and there’s not a lot of room for taking time for yourself,” says Dr. Hutner. Women also may be more likely to seek care for a mental-health problem than men, which may lead to higher rates of diagnosis and treatment.  

Then again, if I don’t miss my guess, it appears that the research does not distinguish between married and unmarried women. Might it be that unmarried women, those who might be seeking to mate, feel worse about menopause than are women who are married and are not on the dating sites?

Anyway, the research emphasizes hormones as a cause:

Researchers at NIMH who have been following 90 women since 1988 have found that the incidence of women’s midlife depression is concentrated in the two years before and after the last menstrual period, says Dr. Schmidt. The quality of women’s midlife depression is distinct, too, Dr. Schmidt says, in that it often involves intense anxiety, irritability and sleep problems along with the more typical sadness and loss of pleasure in once-enjoyed activities.

And the medical profession suggests that, instead of feeding women antidepressants, doctors should prescribe hormone replacement therapy. As it happens, however, a lot of women are not very happy about this alternative, at times with reason.

Doctors speculate that antidepressant use among middle-aged women is being driven in part by the reluctance of women—and many of their physicians—in recent decades to use hormone-replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms. In 2002, a large study, the Women’s Health Initiative, was stopped after women taking hormone therapy had an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Later  analyses found that the risks were largely concentrated among women who were older when they started hormone therapy. For women in their 50s, hormone therapy actually reduced the risk of heart disease and death from any cause. 

So, let’s see. Let’s look at this dispassionately, as we so often do. Keep in mind, as we noted above, that second generation feminism, the kind that was inspired by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, was promoted and marketed and sold as therapy. It claimed that women who put their careers ahead of their homemaking responsibilities would magically feel cured of the problem that had no name.

How’s that one working out?

It appears, by the evidence of the research that feminist therapy, undertaken by nearly all American women, has failed. It has produced more depression in women, probably in women of all ages. Could it be that the problem that had no name was not quite as bad as feminists made it out to be, and that in this case, feminist ideology and the feminist life plan made itself the problem, not the cure.

It is more than ironic that the researchers are blaming it on hormones. How much  more retrograde can you get.


jmod46 said...

I don't doubt that hormones and the pressures related to feminism have a substantial effect on the incidence of depression in women. But I will also make the observation that women differ from men in many other ways. They are more risk-adverse, more in touch with their feelings, and in families take on the roll of healthcare supervisor for each member of the family. They are also decidedly not "macho" to the extent that they will blow off emotional signs related to depression, so they often seek help from doctors. They are simply not afraid to ask for help, whereas many men will just stoically shoulder on. Most of these observations are based on personal experience.

Also based on personal experience, they are terrible at parallel parking, but I think that relates to their lack of spatial awareness compared to men. My wife and I have a deal: I park the car and she picks out colors for the house. Works perfectly.

Bizzy Brain said...

Seems like Henry Higgins' wish, "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?" has turned out to be a curse. (h/t Lerner and Loewe)

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